Spring in South Florida is plant sale season. Cities and garden clubs throughout the region are hosting sales of flowering shrubs, palms, exotics, and native plants — and very often, gardeners drive a long way to find their perfect plant, a great deal, or both.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than with a display of vibrant colors, a site for eyes sore from the dreary grays of winter. Even South Florida, often accused of not actually having a change of seasons, wants to get in on the spring act.
Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about aging. It’s not a constant thought — just one of those nagging inner voices that likes to pop up every so often. I think it’s because of my thumbs.
When I first heard of Tree Tops Park, I imagined a public park with treehouses and tree walkways to give visitors a bird’s-eye view among the branches and canopy. In reality, the only thing to climb is an observation tower — otherwise, visitors keep their feet on the ground and look upward. No matter how you look at them, though, the trees at Tree Tops Park are tops.
This is the time of year when I feel the most out of step with my fellow gardeners and the readers of this blog. You see, this is the start of South Florida’s growing season — the orchids (above) are currently blooming in my garden. Nurseries are overflowing with plant selections and cold fronts bring delightful weather rather than snow and ice.
Hidden beneath the asphalt and manicured communities, the condo towers and man-made canals of southeastern Florida, there is Old Florida — very, very Old Florida. It’s the Florida that existed long before Henry Flagler built the railroad that opened this region of the state to developers. It is, perhaps, the Florida that greeted the first settlers.
That idea is what inspired a group of scientists from Florida Atlantic University and Broward Community College. It was 1979, and their article, “A Tropical Fern Grotto In Broward County,” was published in the American Fern Journal. That 247-acre grotto was actually a remnant of how Broward County once looked. More than 30 species of ferns were found living among 200+ species of other plants, all of which inhabited swamp forests, hammocks, pinelands, and prairie ecosystems.
As a result, the land was made a Designated Urban Wilderness Area and named Fern Forest Nature Center. Walking through the habitat, on both boardwalks and natural paths, allows visitors to take a step back in Florida history.
Fern Forest Nature Center is located at 201 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33063. It’s open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., seven days a week, except for some holidays. Check out their calendar for various events.